The main theme of the novel is one of the study of parapsychology, a field of pseudoscience popular in the 1960s as advances in science brought to the forefront the possibility that psychic powers were a legitimate field of inquiry. Inquiry led to thorough debunking of the field in reality, but playing around in the Doctor Who universe makes the field an incredibly interesting idea to explore. Much of the first half of the novel involves discussion between Roley, his assistant Maria, and the Doctor on the nature of his experiments and the possible causes of these delusions. The investigation slowly builds as it becomes apparent that there is something more occurring in the story. This is one aspect of the novel where Collier lets the story down is that the actual storyline doesn’t delve deeply into exactly what experiments Roley has been conducting and becomes far too quick on the uptake when it comes to including alien intervention. The villains of the novel are Azoth and Tarr. Azoth presents himself as an almost demonic figure attempting to use these people for his own purposes, but Collier eventually reveals that he’s just an android from the future. This twist is perhaps the weirdest twist of the novel, as Collier implies Azoth should be some alien and an android villain doesn’t quite make sense with what is set up. Tarr is a human villain and to be honest he is incredibly bland, making little impact on the plot except being someone for Azoth to talk to and intimidate.
Collier does shine in this second attempt at a novel in characterizing the Doctor and Sam as well as introducing a new companion. Fitz Kreiner is a young man working in a greenhouse whose mother is one of Dr. Roley’s patients and gets caught up in the events of the novel. Fitz is a character whom Collier immediately ingrains into the reader’s mind by giving quite a bit of insight into his mind. He’s a lovable rogue archetype through and through, convinced he’s a ladies man and going to make it as a star one day, but hopelessly lost in London with a dead end job. He does land a date with Sam Jones and they do spend much of the book with scenes of excellent chemistry. Collier hints on a potential romance, but the plot of the novel makes note that this chain of events is not fated to happen as Fitz undergoes emotional trauma as his mother does not make it out alive. Sam Jones is also characterized quite well by Collier, having some great scenes with Fitz and a sense of emotional connection. Outside of that her character is no less bland than her other appearances. The Eighth Doctor here perhaps acts most like the character, with his first appearance attempting to by a dead begonia which he intends to rescue. It is an excellent scene and the childlike wonder and eternal optimism of the character is present throughout. Overall, The Taint is an improvement over Longest Day and is good, but the weak villains and a plot that needs a little more time to breathe. 6/10.